Colleen Thompson: Passionate and Relentless

Have you ever met a multi-published, award-winning  author who is so personable, modest and cheerful you think ‘that’s exactly how I want to be when I’m that famous’?

Well, for me that author is romantic suspense writer, Colleen Thompson. She’s survived this crazy industry so long and experienced so many ups and downs in her career, yet manages to remain passionate about her writing and relentless to stay in the game and get her next story published! 

Although she probably doesn’t know this, Colleen’s the first person I met after joining the West Houston chapter of RWA. I tend to be uber-neurotic going someplace new, so of course I was way too early and sat at a table by myself long enough to think that getting up and going home was a really great idea.

Then Colleen came in, smiled that big smile and asked if she could sit with me. She went out of her way to make me feel welcome and not the dumbest writer ever for not knowing lingo like ‘Series Contemporary.’

Even under tight deadlines Colleen attends chapter meetings, pinch-hits a topic if our scheduled speaker cancels, teaches online classes and can always be relied upon to generously give her time to authors in all stages of their careers. Oh, and she still manages to co-host a blog, update her status on Facebook with lightning speed and posts pictures of darling rescue dogs in need of adoption. Yeah, I want to be just like Colleen Thompson when I grow up!

Welcome Colleen! Who are your favorite romantic suspense authors?

I first fell in love with romantic suspense reading Nora Roberts, Tami Hoag, and Sharon Sala. I still love those authors and have also come to enjoy novels by Karen Rose and Allison Brennan.

I know for some of your books you’ve actually gone to the small town (for your setting) or done an activity. What was the most interesting thing you did in the name of research?

A few years ago, I went flying in gliders while researching Triple Exposure, whose heroine is a glider pilot. Then I spent a fun afternoon brainstorming with glider pilots about ways one might sabotage a sailplane (what they generally call gliders) to make it crash. Thankfully, they all got into the spirit of the thing rather than calling the FAA to report me!

 More recently, I’ve spent time speaking with a forensic anthropologist about the life cycles of the various insects that feed on a decomposing human body.

…sorry to interrupt…but UGH! GROSS.

After reading and talking about it, I decided to forego the field trip—I could already imagine what it smelled like all too well. (I have what I call “smell-a-vision,” which makes me smell everything I read about or see on a TV or movie screen. This is awesome when I’m reading about blooming lilacs or baking bread. Not so much, when I’m researching decaying corpses. Gross!)

You have been in this industry a long time. If you were just starting today what would you do differently?

I would give serious consideration to some of the alternate routes available today.

Many mainline publishers are giving new authors the opportunity to break in to their electronic-only lines (and buying very few debut titles for their print-first lines.)

There are some very reputable smaller e-presses out there, too, some of which have been regularly putting their authors on bestseller lists. These don’t usually pay advances, but they give a writer experience in working with an editor and publicity team, and some authors are breaking out and into print or indy e-book success.

If I were writing something too different for the current market, I would also seriously consider indy publishing—but not until I had my work independently edited by a pro (not a friend or critique partner) and gotten myself a sharp, professional-looking cover. Then I’d spend six months to a year studying how to launch it right before diving in with self-publishing.

While your dream may have been to publish first with one of the big houses, don’t close your eyes to or be snobbish about other opportunities. With a lot of work, a lot of talent, and some good, old-fashioned luck, they really can work.

Tell us a little bit about Boxing the Octopus?

My good friend, New York Times bestselling author Joni Rodgers, and I met at a book signing and instantly bonded, after which we went out for coffee once every week or so.

She’s a memoirist, ghostwriter, and novelist, while I’m a mass market paperback original genre girl, so we’d had very different experiences, but each of us had respect for the other—and a lot of hard-earned respect for what it takes to stay in the game putting out books year after year.

During one of those talks, Joni compared grappling with the publishing biz to “boxing the octopus,” and I blurted, “That’s it! That’s our blog’s name!

 In late 2006, we launched Boxing the Octopus, www.boxocto.com, to foster an ongoing conversation on the writing life. And I’m still not finished yakking!

Do you like movies that scare you or make you cry?

Ha! Seriously, I like scary books a lot better than scary movies, for some reason. I hate having stuff jump out at me onscreen, but I can read (and write) suspense all night.

While I don’t like emotionally manipulative tearjerkers, if they’re really honest and understated, they can be devastatingly beautiful. One favorite of mine is the Italian film, Life Is Beautiful. Set during the Holocaust, it features a loving father who convinces his little boy (to help him survive the concentration camp where they are taken) that the experience is all a game.

I laughed at the funny moments (believe it or not, there are quite  a few) and cried my eyes out at the ending, but loved it enough to recommend it to all my friends and family members.

Oh my gosh! One of my top favorite movies (only the Italian version!)

You’re married to a true alpha-hero, Mike, a fireman.  Does he get teased by his fellow firefighters given his wife is a romance writer?

Not that I know of, but since he’d just shrug it off if anyone made a dumb remark, I can’t say for certain. For the most part, his fellow firefighters have been awesome, buying copies for their wives and mothers and answering my research questions. One (actually an ambulance supervisor/EMT and not a suppression firefighter) took me for a ride-along one busy Friday night, where we visited the trauma center ER and scoped out all the dicey areas where I could never go on my own at 2am! I used a lot of that research in my book, Fade the Heat.

You used to write historical romance. (under the names Gwyneth Atlee and Colleen Easton.) Why the change to Romantic Suspense?

I loved, and still love, American-set historicals set around true-life events and have recently been bringing some of these older books back (under my Gwyneth Atlee historical romance pseudonym) in e-book form.

Unfortunately, the market for these books contracted in the early 2000s sank, putting a lot of authors (and my then-editor) out of work. I was reading and enjoyed so much mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense at the time that I wanted to try my hand  (after seven historicals, all of which included a lot of suspense elements) in this exciting new-to-me arena. I was instantly hooked—and found a more receptive home for my darker, grittier voice.

What’s up next for you writing wise (or speaking engagements)?

After Relentless Protector (Harlequin Intrigue) in September, I’ll be promoting Passion to Protect (Harlequin Romantic Suspense) which comes out in November. Meanwhile, my agents are shopping several new proposals, but nothing I can talk about at the moment, darn it!

OK, then on to my favorite topic…favorite food ever?

Snow crab legs with melted butter. But lumpy mashed potatoes, my favorite comfort food, runs a close second!

Mmm! I’m right there with you on the lumpy mashed potatoes. How can readers get a hold of your backlist, given that your prior publisher collapsed?

I’m very excited about a deal I’ve just signed with Amazon to bring back my nine single-title (full-length, as opposed to the briefer category books I enjoy writing for Harlequin) romantic suspense novels, which were in limbo with my former publisher’s (Dorchester’s) financial collapse. Already available in e-book form, the books will soon be out in paperback and hardcover formats. Readers have been asking for these books for two years, so this is terrific news!

That’s exceptionally good news and you REALLY deserve it, Colleen! Thank you so much for visiting us today. For more information on Colleen, please click here for her website: http://www.colleen-thompson.com/

Colleen will be answering questions today and is giving away a copy of her newest release “RELENTLESS PROTECTOR” to one lucky commenter. Stop back on Thursday to see if it’s YOU!

 

About Sarah Andre

Romantic Suspense That Keeps You Up All Night! I live in sunny FL, love daydreaming, reading and chocolate. I write in the wee hours of the morning before my helpless hubby and 2 male Pomeranian pups awaken with their demands. :) My debut LOCKED, LOADED and LYING is available now.

Posted on September 18, 2012, in Author Interview, Sarah Andre and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 62 Comments.

  1. Thanks for visiting us today, Colleen!
    I’m kind of clueless about the different Harlequin lines, so why is this month’s RELENTLESS PROTECTOR an “Intrigue” and in November your PASSION TO PROTECT is “Romantic Suspense”?

    Do you switch editors or propose the plot differently?

  2. Hi, Sarah!
    Thanks for having me on the blog, and thank you so much for the *very* kind words in your introduction. As long as I’ve known you, you’ve been an unfailingly sweet, helpful, and talented writer, so I was really flattered!

    Great question about my two releases. There are subtle differences between the Harlequin Intrigue and Harlequin Romantic Suspense lines. HI is more action/adventure/intrigue with very alpha heroes (very often military or law enforcement), and I’d call this line more plot driven. HRS offers a little more leeway and a little more space for subplots or characterization.

    Since I’m more experiencing writing single title, when it came to category, I wrote the stories that I wanted to tell and let my editor figure our which line was appropriate for which story. Since I tend to naturally skew toward HRS, I’m happy to say I’ll be doing another book with that line next year in the popular Colton series! I’m super excited about the opportunity to work with other authors and editors on this story.

  3. Hey, Colleen! Nice to see you here!

    As you know, I’ve read RELENTLESS PROTECTOR, and you got me! (For those wondering what that meant, I was reading down one path, confident I it all figured out, when Colleen pulled a slick reversal and took me by surprise!) My question is, is there a connection between RELENTLESS and PASSION TO, or are they both standalones? AND…. have we seen the last of Cole and Lisa?

    • Aw, she’s a master at that, Will! She always points out the villain in such a subtle, slight-of-hand way that you miss it every time…trust me. It’s become an obsession of mine to finally finish the last page of one of her books and go: ‘I KNEW it was him!’

      • Aw, thank you, Brandie and Sarah (again!) And thanks for the congrats on the backlist, Brandie. I’m excited to be working with Montlake (Amazon) on the books!

  4. Hi, William! Great to see you here! Despite the coincidental similarity in titles, each book stands alone. Hoping to “get you” with PASSION TO PROTECT, too. 😉

  5. Hi, Colleen, I love your can-do attitude–no wonder you’ve accomplished so much! I love a great plot twist so I can’t wait to dig into RELENTLESS PROTECTOR. BTW how did you get involved with rescue dogs? And do any of those lovable pups make it into your stories?

  6. Brandie Nickerson

    What an awesome interview! Sarah, I too want to be just like Colleen when I grow up 🙂 I can’t believe she juggles all that and write too! Thanks for the great advice Colleen and congratulations on getting back your backlist 🙂

    Brandie

  7. Krista,
    Thanks so much for the kind words and for your questions about animal rescue.

    I’ve always been a bit of an animal nut with a tendency to adopt “three-time loser” shelter/rescue dogs. (Love cats, too, but I’m very allergic.) I love doing volunteer work but got too busy to continue with Meals on Wheels–and I can’t be trusted to go to the shelter as an official volunteer, or I’d bring home way too many animals. So I decided to unofficially start posting an “Adorable Adoptable of the Day” on my Facebook page to help call attention to the many worthy animals my local shelter has available. It keeps me out of trouble and has led to some adoptions. And since most of my readers are animal lovers, they enjoy it, too.

    Not surprisingly, nearly all of my books include a lovable (but often ornery) dog. Once, I ran a contest allowing readers to nominate their favorite pet to appear in an upcoming book. The response was tremendous, and I really enjoyed making one special reader deliriously happy! (Note to self: Do that again!)

  8. This interview is as fast-paced as one of Colleen’s books! Or did I read extra-fast because a killer may have been lurking between paragraphs? (I read Colleen’s books with a protector cat at my side.)

    It’s a treat to learn more about a favorite author. Thanks, Colleen and Sarah!

  9. Sarah,
    Thank you for introducing me to Colleen Thompson. I have never heard of her until now. I will definitely read her books. I love romantic suspense books. There are so many authors that you have introduced me to that I can’t begin to mention them. Thank you again. Can’t wait to start reading Colleen Thofmpson’s books!!!!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Deborah Dunn! I appreciate your giving me a try!

    • Thanks for visiting, Deborah!
      In our very first K&T post (almost a year ago!) we asked the question: What book would you take to a deserted island?” And my answer was Colleen’s single title RS “HEAD ON.” If you want a can’t-put-down read with a conflict as wide as the Grand Canyon this is the novel for you.

      So I, personally, am thrilled that Montlake has scooped up your backlist, Colleen! HEAD ON needs to make the rounds again.

      • If you don’t quit saying so many nice things, Sarah, I’m going to have to take my pulse to see if I’m dead out of concern you’re delivering my eulogy! LOL! 🙂 And thank you!

  10. Thank you so much for joining us today, Colleen! Congrats on the deal with Amazon to get your books that were in limbo back in print. I’m excited to hear they are already available in ebook. Are these books all stand alone or part of a series? For a new-to-you reader, which title do you recommend starting with?

    • I’m so glad to be here, Rachel, and thanks for the congratulations! Most of my books are true stand alones (exceptions: 1. Fade the Heat and 2 Heat Lightning and 1. Beneath Bone Lake and 3. Touch of Evil.) But even the exceptions do stand alone. I’d recommend a reader starting with my first romantic suspense, Fatal Error, for the full effect, since I sometimes refer to characters from one story (though not in a way as to confuse new readers) in another. Head On is another great book to begin with.

      Thanks and happy reading!

  11. Just finished RELENTLESS PROTECTOR and WOW!! It kept me on the edge of my seat from page 1. I also loved TRIPLE EXPOSURE so much I went to Marfa and took a glider ride with the same guy Colleen did. Yeah, I’m a major fangirl.

  12. Congrats on the deal and the books! They all sound good.

  13. Very nice interview, Sarah and Colleen. I need a dose of Colleen’s focus. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you, Carla! And I know you’ll get your groove back!

    • Hey there, Carla, thanks for commenting!

      Although I would like to be ‘just like Colleen’ someday, I don’t think I’m as organized as she is plot-wise…don’t you use color-coded stickies on a bulletin board, Colleen? (Makes me shiver, LOL!)

      • Sometimes I do, when I’m forced to because the plot or # of characters are making my head explode! My techniques varies with the book. Once in a blue moon, I even revert to my former pantser ways. But for me, that’s writing the hard way. I’ve found I’m more likely to make my deadline if I plot!

  14. I cannot wait to read Relentless Protector. But I’m going away for a short vacation next month and am saving it until i hit the beach and won’t have any interruptions. And I’m so happy your Dorchester books will be re-released by Amazon–that’s great news! Great interview, Sarah.

  15. Great interview, ladies. Colleen, thanks for being here today! I can tell I’m going to have to pick up some of your books because I love getting to the end without having it figured out. Now if I could just write like that…

    I had other questions, but you answered them already. 😉 Thanks!

    • Thank you, Gwen! I’m currently taking your Scrivener class and really getting a lot out of it (though I’m a couple of lessons behind now) and your Scrivener for Dummies book, too!

    • I think Colleen needs to teach an online course in red herrings, that’s how good she is at leading you merrily down the wrong path. Even KNOWING that and reading her next book I think: “well, if I’m walking down this path then I must be wrong” and I start fumbling down other paths knowing she’s probably tricking me again. Truly one of her greatest talents!

      • I’d totally sign up for that one. Colleen: Are you a plotter? Is there any hope for a (mostly) pantser like me? 😉

        • What a great idea for a workshop, Sarah! I totally need to do that.
          Gwen, there’s definitely hope. I was a dyed-in-the-wool pantser until after my first book sold. My agent told me she cold sell the next one on proposal (a synopsis and 3 chapters) so it forced me to learn to write a synopsis before the book was finished. Since then, I’ve sold more than 20 books on proposal, which I’ve plotted in a variety of ways. I still hate writing synopses, though, but it does force me to work out a lot of kinks in the story early on. Saves a lot of time!

  16. Colleen, I have RELENTLESS PROTECTOR on my TBR pile. I can’t wait to read it. I love Life is Beautiful too.

  17. I’ve always enjoyed your books, Colleen, even when you do such awful things to your poor characters. I was amazed at how much story you managed to pack into Relentless Protector and I’ll be looking forward to the next one.

  18. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that, Kay! Colleen’s advice to writers is “drag your h/h thru the mud and when they finally get back up hit them with a bus.”
    🙂

  19. I’m so glad, Colleen, your fabulous Dorchester romantic suspense books are out of limgo, and I wish you the best of luck with the projects your agents are shopping.

  20. This is totally off topic and, Colleen,you may not even remember this, but you once gave me the best agent advice I’ve ever gotten. Thank you!!!!

  21. Colleen, glad things are going so well for you. Happy to hear the single titles are coming out again. I’ve read many and love them. Thanks for your Adorable Adoptables, though they do tug at my heart strings (cliche alert–I’ve been Margieized :)) I get you about not going to the shelter. I have to be careful about hitting Pet Smart on Saturday’s. Blinders help, but with two adorables of our own, can’t take a chance of any more sticking for a time. As always, Sarah, an interesting interview.

    • Hi, Marsha! Thanks for the kind words, and I’m glad you’re enjoying the Adorable Adoptables (even thought you’re at capacity as I am!) See you on FB!

    • Aw, the pictures she posts of the dogs! A few weeks ago she posted a DARLING newborn pup…(one of 5.) They and their mom all needed to be adopted together since the puppies were so young. Good thing my little-town-inside Houston has a 3-dog limit or my DH would have come home to quite a surprise!

  22. Colleen thanks so much for being here today, and Sarah, great interview as usual! I think Colleen named most of my favorite authors in her list, and we have more in common. I too love scary books, but scary movies not so much, and I think Sarah Andre is …well…she’s a doll! Can’t wait to read Relentless Protector!

  23. Excellent news on the Dorchester books, Colleen!

  24. Oh, good grief. Am I the only one who gets tangled up in all the logins?

    • Thanks, Heather, and I’ve been tripping over logins all week, so it’s definitely not just you! Thanks for making the effort!

  25. Congratulations on your deal, Colleen. You certainly deserve it, you are my favorite romantic suspense author. I only recently found Boxing the Octopus but I’m following now so I won’t miss any of the yakking! 🙂 I can’t wait. You are an inspiration.

  26. Thank you so much for being our guest today, Colleen, we so enjoyed it! Best of luck with sales of Relentless Protector and Passion to Protect!

  27. You’re very welcome, Sarah. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to stop be. I really enjoyed being here and love the blog!

  28. I saw this a little late, but enjoyed the interview! I had wondered about how you gained your sailplane knowledge for Triple Exposure (which I loved!).

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